Help me pick a new TV

My current television is about 19 years old: a 27" basic Sanyo mono tube set. It was great back in 1990 when I bought it because it was “cable ready.” :smiley:

I want something about the same and of good value. My wife says go flatscreen (plasma - LCD?) knowing nothing about price. I don’t want to break the bank and I don’t need any bells and whistles, just a good machine with reliable output.

What to buy and where? Craigslist? Ebay? Best Buy?

Hidden costs? Speakers, wires, mounts?


Plasma gives a better picture with a wider angle of visibility; LCD is lighter and cheaper, and uses less electricity. Don’t get anything less than a 1080p display (1920x1080) that will do 24 frames per second. For typical viewing distances a 46" or 50" will do you well. Make sure you have multiple HDMI 1.3 inputs. Think one for your DVR / satellite box, 1 for the BluRay / upscaling DVD player, and 1 for your games machine.

Speakers are often not included, and a good set will often enhance movies.

Samsung and Panasonic are good manufacturers. I’d go for a reputable local retailer.

I second every thing Quartz said, except the last thing. You will almost certainly get a better deal online. I suggest that after doing some research you check out your top candidates at your local Best Buy. Then check Amazon and some of the more reputable online sellers (B&H, Adorama, J&R, etc.) for the best prices, including shipping, of course.

However, be extremely wary of other online sellers, especially those you’ll see listed at NexTag and other aggregating sites. There are lots of bait & switch scam artists out there. If there are more than a couple user comments accusing the seller of that, stay away.

What’s your budget, and how far is the seating area from the location of the set? These two factors will make a big difference in what we recommend.

I just went through this very same exercise. I did my due diligence at Best Buy, but purchased through Amazon ($200 cheaper, no shipping, and no state tax). Can’t say enough good about Amazon, they were fantastic. BUT - some of the items on their site aren’t really sold by them. Be careful that the page says Amazon is really the seller.

I got a 46 inch Sharp LCD TV. Love it. Would recommend it highly.

The main difference between LCD and Plasma is: LCDs are much less reflective. If you watch TV in the daytime, and there are lots of windows, Plasma will drive you crazy with the reflections. Supposedly, Plasmas reacts better to fast-changing scenes like sports or action movies, but I haven’t noticed any problems with my LCD.

Stick with a name brand. Sony, Sharp, Panasonic, Samsung, etc. Off-brands probably won’t look as good, but you’ll be able to see that in the store.

There are virtually no CRT televisions out there anymore. Sure, there are some, but you’ll be in a small and shrinking user base. I have to recommend against it.

Good luck!..TRM

I was hoping for $300 but from browsing around, it looks like there’s nothing decent under about $500 in the 26-27 inch range. Thoughts?

Our eyeballs are about 12 feet from the screen.

You should go for the absolutely largest screen you can afford. You may think that since you’re used to a 27" set, something similar will be fine. But you’re mistaken. First, when you switch to a widescreen set (as you almost certainly will have to) the same diagonal measurement as your old 3:4 set will give you a smaller screen in terms of area. Second, with the higher resolution new sets are capable of, you can enlarge the picture and still have good detail (assuming you have HD sources).

Even though a 40-, 50-, or 60-inch set may seem huge to you now, you’ll get used to it, and very few people buy a big set and later decide it’s too big. Deciding that a set is not as big as it could have been is much more common. A few months ago, I bought a 58" Samsung 1080p plasma, and my seating area is no further than yours. If I could have afforded a 65-incher, I would have done it.

So think big!

We’ll need some more info: where are you located (US?) What sources do you watch: broadcast, cable, DVD, games, etc. Is HD available from you cable system and/or over the air?

Without knowing anything about the OP’s viewing habits, making him get a top of the line HDTV may be a bit aggressive - especially the 1080p24 part.

Bearflag - at $300, you’re not going to find much, much less what Quartz suggested. You’ll be perfectly happy with a 720p set, which can be had much cheaper these days because of all the clamouring for bigger and better. If you can squeeze $500-600, there are deals to be had. I check daily for deals, and there’s always something interesting. Currently, there’s a 42" 720p plasma for $687, a 37" 720p LCD for $551 and a 32" 720p LCD for $424.

But most of all - don’t let the salesman sell you a Monster cable. For average use, you’ll get the exact same picture from a $5 HDMI cable than a $60 one.

I agree that at the moment we don’t know enough about the OP to make firm recommendations, but unless bearflag70 is only a very occasional TV watcher, I wouldn’t advise a 720p set because it is going to go out of date faster than a 1080p set. If you are spending a lot of money, or just more than you expected, it would be wise to consider this purchase an investment that will be in use for 10+ years. Seen that way, getting the largest set and the most advanced technology you can afford is a good idea.

I watch a lot of TV and movies, a fair amount in HD. So I was happy to spend $2,300 on my 58" set because it represented a major price drop on a unit I had been watching for more than a year. The later models in the same line did not offer enough significant advances to make them worth the additional price to me.

My upstairs neighbor, a lady in her 70s, hardly ever watches TV. She has a small VCR/TV combo that’s fine for her. My set would obviously be inappropriate for her.

As for speakers, the built-in speakers of most TVs are pretty crappy. Will the set be in the same room as your stereo system? If so, using it for your TV sound will produce much better results. (Of course, then we might start trying to talk you into an A/V receiver and a full home theater system, and a Blu-Ray player and…)

This is probably the best advice you will get from this thread! In general, buy cables online and get the cheapest you can find. Premium cables are the biggest ripoff in the electronics business.

I watch the news, NFL football, Daily Show, Office, The Soup, Lost, a few game shows here and there, a few documentaries here and there, and a movie now and then. I casually watch TV for a little bit almost every day, but it’s not something I want to spend a mortgage payment on. No way. I don’t need a home theater.

I have Comcast cable, and HD is available, but I don’t need HD.

At $600, my best option is the let my current old TV burn itself out, move the smaller TV out of the bedroom and into the living room, cancel the Comcast fee for the bedroom cable box, and watch more shows online.

As an HD lover, home theater covetor, and tech chaser, I humbly disagree. A 720p set will not “go out of date”. It will remain just as capable of delivering HD content in 5-10 years as it does today. And unless you’re buying a gigantic screen (well beyond the $300 budget listed by the OP), the difference is unnoticeable. For someone just looking to replace a 27" Sanyo with “no bells and whistles” and is “reliable”, recommendations to buy even bigger bells and shinier whistles is just (to extend and distort the metaphor) more noise to slog through.

There is one thing you’ll need to be aware of. Let’s say you go out and find a simple 27" flatscreen for $300. Not a bad purchase for your needs. You’re going to take it home (or get it in the mail), set it up, plug it in and turn it on. You’re going to be met with a picture that may very well be worse than your Sanyo. SD pictures have a tendency to really look pretty bad. You may be able to live with it, or you may want to upgrade your cable package to include basic HD content. Just a quick FYI so you’re prepared. (If you ask the guy at Best Buy to switch to an SD channel on a set, you might get a sneak peek.)

I agree that on a smaller set the difference between 1080 and 720 is minimal. I was holding out the possibility that he might want to go larger. And based on the programs he says he watches, he might enjoy football or Lost on a big screen in HD. In which case 1080 would be better. But we now know he’s not interested in signing up for HD, or going the home theater route.

I agree with this so much that I’d say he’d be better off sticking with the existing set, if there’s nothing wrong with it, and saving up for a bigger set (and the HD programming to watch on it) a few years from now.

How about these, for example:

PS: Walmart politics aside

Also, are the off brands asking for trouble?


I completely agree with this. When I was shopping for a new TV about 6 months ago the only question I had was size. I was about to go for a 46 incher when a friend gave me good advice: “A TV cannot be too big!” So I went for a 52 incher and, you know what, it’s not so big! I would’ve really regretted the smaller set. So look at your budget and find the largest one that will work for you.

The image on the existing set is starting to crap out. The image is starting to display smaller than the entire screen. It’s like watching letterbox with black space on the top and bottom with the image smushed into a smaller area.

Ugh. I really think that unless a great deal comes by (like a 32" LCD for around $250), you’re better off with the bedroom TV. Those prices you linked are really painful. You’re going to get a lot more value with just a few hundred dollars more (though I completely sympathize with not wanting to send a mortgage payment).

I’d actually look for a cheap replacement option on craigslist right now. People are going to start giving away their CRTs once more and more people upgrade, giving you some time to sock away some cash on a better purchase.

Seriously - the picture quality on a small screen for what you’re doing is going to be pretty poor. I could live with poor quality on a crappy TV, but not on something I just shelled out $350 for.

From your viewing habits, price range, and what you had before I think some people are giving you overkill advice. If you want the equivalent to what you had then you should get a 32". The screen is the same height as your 27" set just wider.
For the budget conscious I would prefer a Vizio or Sharp. Then possibly a RCA or Sanyo. The other brands you listed I would avoid.

Have you checked for a Vertical or Vertical Height control somewhere, perhaps on the back of the set? It may be going bad, or it might just need a small adjustment.

Agreed, if you are perfectly happy with what you have now, and are willing to spend about $400 for a slight improvement at best. But if you’ve admired any of the great big sets that are available and are willing to spend a little more (or wait a while), then it would be silly to buy a small set now, when for two or three times the amount you could get a serious upgrade. That’s all I’m saying.

Of course, you have to figure on paying a little more every month for HD service, as well.

You might check out Consumer Reports for their ratings on TVs in whatever size range you decide on.

I can’t say that I’ve ever admired a TV set. I want an image and sound. That’s about it.

I don’t want to pay extra for HD.

I think you’re my roommate. :slight_smile:

I’d keep an eye out on craigslist. Anyone selling a big enough CRT (I’d hold out for at least 32") that mentions “making the upgrade to HD” should get an offer from you for $50.